NEW DELHI: Former Indian and US diplomats Friday held business as a force to drive the two economies, a signal US President Barack Obama must send out in his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month.
While a rising China, terrorism and cyber warfare were the issues that dotted their bilateral concerns, there was a strong consensus among American panelists that the rise of India as a global power is in the interest of their country, and Obama must extend partnership in order to make India self-reliant in trade and business.
"A growing and stronger India is in US interest. The rise of India as a global power is in US interest," former US deputy secretary of state James B. Steinberg said at a session on "President Obama's visit to India: A leap forward in the bilateral relationship?" here.
Drawing upon the positive side of India-US relationship, Nicholas Burns, the former under secretary of state for political affairs under Bush administration from 2005 to 2008, said: "Trade and services between the two countries have quadrupled in the last decade. But we are also victims of extreme terrorism, and homeland security is critical to both of us. A rising China is also a common concern that we must focus on."
While there was a sense of displeasure on the American side over Prime Minister Modi's perceived silence on the issue of Iran's nuclear disarmament, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran said the matter shouldn't be viewed in that light. "India does not support a nuclear weapon Iran, but the matter should be resolved with diplomacy and dialogue rather than confrontation," he said.
India's proximity with Russia shouldn't be a matter of concern for the US either, said other Indian panelists, because bilateralism between India and US has only strengthened despite it.
American panelists meanwhile were of the opinion that the success of "Make in India" programme depended on Modi's move to make India a corruption-free market where it was easy for foreign investor to do business without bureaucratic impediments.
Avantha Group founder and chairman Gautam Thapar said a dialogue between US and India was important for the latter to "continue growing and ensure its place in the world" while Shyam Saran said it would serve the two sides well to "look for opportunities beyond obstacles in the Indo-US relations".
"Prime Minister Modi's maiden visit to the US last year and his invitation to President Obama as chief guest on Jan 26 must be seen as a strong indicator that the US is seen as a very important partner," he said. Burns said both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, along with the Republicans and the Democrats in the US, have laid a significant foundation for a string bilateral relationship.
"And President Obama and Prime Minister Modi are just carrying forward that legacy now."